Scratched around a bit on this warm and engaging bronze in the plaza of the Linfield College Nursing School in NW Portland (about 22nd and Northrup).

It’s not big Edward “Buck” Schiwetz, tepid watercolorist who passed on in 1984. No, this big comfy bronze is by Berthold “Tex” Schiwetz, who cast this St. Francis + five pals in 1966. He died in 1971.

I am not going to tell you a bible story – suffice to say preaching to birds and other animals is emblematic of Francis. A common symbol within the hagiography, this moment has been wrought in metal and on canvas for centuries. I think, tho, Linfield is Episcopalian. Or Baptist. I don’t know. And couldn’t tell you the difference anyhow. It doesn’t matter.

I have always liked this piece, found it warm and inviting. The crows are both mad and delighted to be the subject of so much attention, rendered huge, friendly, and somewhat abstract.

Francis is a small man, humble in a thin robe. His eyes protrude weirdly, and his toes, segmented by the thong of his sandals, are anatomically awful. But he’s smiling a weird little I-know-something-you-don’t-know satisfied smarmy smile which is nice and charming in a clever way.

His dapper little beard, his intent eyes, calmly looking out, waiting, not posing for a holy picture, just calm and waiting.

His arms are around his friends, the crows. Who are these crows. Shiteaters, trash-pickers, yack yack yackers, bad luck, ugly thinks. Stupid things. Scat!

But these crows are friends. Gentle friends. Mad and delighted friends. The hands hold the birds carefully, tenderly, like a loyal dog or an obedient child. He’s tamed them? No, look at their eyes. The crows are mad. But they love Francis. And that’s the story. Love is the balancer.

It’s weathered well, moved a couple of times I think, but is in very good condition. If you visit Linfield, there are also two less interesting sculptures behind and below Francis in a sunlit but locked atrium. More interesting are three paintings inside, two in the stairwell and one up in the student lobby. Wild exuberant human figures in motion.

Van Gogh + Hitchcock + a thousand others used crows as frights. See the Hollander’s Wheatfield with Crows

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